It may be confusing for some to understand the distinction between civil unions and marriages. The Supreme Court has recently made some interesting rulings on how marriage should be viewed and legislated in the United States. But civil unions still exist and are important to understand.
Civil unions have been created in multiple countries, and in the the United States by multiple states, in order to give legal recognition to same-sex partners. Although civil unions are created with the idea that they are similar to marriage, they two legal statuses are different, which has caused sincere concerns about equality. Most jurisdictions that offer civil unions allow them for both same-sex and opposite-sex couples.
But it is important to note that a civil union is not a marriage and does not grant the partners recognition under the federal government, like the marriage of same-sex partners does. (see the Supreme Court’s ruling invalidating section 3 of DOMA)
The states that currently offer civil unions are:
Illinois: began issuing civil unions on June 1, 2011
New Jersey: bagan issuing civil unions on February 19, 2007
Hawaii: began issuing civil unions on February 24, 2011
Colorado: bagan issuing civil unions on May 1, 2013.
Other states, such as Rhode Island, issued civil unions until the state recognized same-sex marriage. These states then discontinued civil unions and allow previous civil unions to be converted into marriage.
Most civil unions grant most of the same rights as marriage, with one big difference: civil unions are not recognized by the federal government, so do not qualify the couple for federal benefits.
Legal separation for partners that are civilly united is substantially similar to divorce.
Photo by: William Doran